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Wheel Building

Wheels are for riding, they mean freedom, whether it be on the road from racing to touring or for off road riding - at The Cycle Clinic you will find wheels built just for you. 

There are a number of reasons why I build wheels rather than buy them in ready built from Mavic, Campagnolo, Fulcrum etc. One of the most important reasons though is that I enjoy building wheels - I find it therapeutic.

The other reason I have very specific ideas about what make a good wheelset and it does depend on a number of factors which I will elaborate on below.

Spoke count:

Factory wheels often use low spoke count and are often not stiff enough to allow the rims to wear out before spoke failure for some. While this will suit some riders it will not suit all. Also spares for many "factory wheels" can be hard to come by. Replacement rims are often very expensive or not available and a set of spokes expensive difficult to buy or not straight forward to replace. Factory wheels are essenitially throw away which is fine if you dont mind that.

Low spoke count wheels need stiff rims and hubs that give good bracing angles. This is all possible and it give a aerodynamic wheelset that is comparable to anything produced by the major manufacturer, in some ways I could argue it is superior. For most riders though a 24F/28R spoke count works very well, the higher spoke count extends spoke life. Heavier riders will benefit from a higher spoke count still as this extends spoke life still further. Lower spoke counts can work well with stiff rims. 

I shy away from rider weight limits I think they are meaningless now. Having said that there is general guidance I follow. It prevents failures. 

Rim choice:

Many wheel manufacturers are still wedded to 15mm internal width rims for road, however this is starting to change. This however narrow rims are not optimal. Wider road/CX rims are now in production with internal widths in the 17-20.5mm range. This make your tyres take on a wider profile i.e they become wider and therefore more comfortable. This does not slow you down in any way on the contrary when cornering you should notice improved grip if you push hard enough that is. Why? Well the same reason that cars come with low profile tyres these days - a better supported sidewall flex's less and the amount of sidewall flex on a tyres dicates the amount of lateral grip you have. Also you can lean over in the bend more due to the more semi circular tyre profile.

Wide rims are stiffer than narrower ones which means less wheel flex. Now apart from the marginal gain of improved power transfer, less wheel flex mean slower spoke fatigue and that is good news for you and my reputation.

So you will find I mostly build with wide, stiff rims like the H Plus Son Archetype, Pacenti Forza, HED Belgian + BORG carbon rim (23mm and 25mm wide), Velocity Aileron, Ryde Pulse sprint, DT Swiss R460, DT Swiss RR411, BORG22 (Kinlin XR22T), BORG31 (Kinlin XR31T), DT Swiss RR440, DT Swiss RR411, DT swiss RR511 and it goes on and on. There are rims for disc brake and rim brake. you are spoilt for choice here. 

Rims with an aysmmetric (to increase spoke tension on the low side) are now available. The Kinlin XR22T, XR31T, DT Swiss RR440, RR411 and the Pacenti Forza as all good examples of such rims. With tubeless tyres causing significant tension drop in wheels and the advent of disc brakes (these load the spokes when slowing), off set rims increase spoke life. I favour there use and will recommend them over a symmetric drilled rim any day. 

Also the rims I use are generally in stock, so if you crash and damage one and they won't cost you the earth. Also no labour will be charged in repairing crash damage wheels I have built.

There is also a large number of wider MTB rims and again tyres on wider rims just perform better than on narrower ones so why wouldn't you want that. Favoured rims are the Ryde Trace Trail (asymmetric) and the Velocity Blunt SS or 35. 


Most factory wheelset use hub that have very low spoke counts and straight pull hubs meaning rebuilding is often difficult. The hubs I use come in drillings from 20H to 36H. I stock rims from 20H to 36H so there will always be a rim for your hubs. I use Miche hubs a lot because they are brilliant in every way without breaking the bank. I do however use Carbon Ti, Shimano Ultegra hubs, Shimano Dura Ace, Campagnolo Record, Royce and White Industries T11 hubs for rim brake road/CX.

For road/CX disc brake, CX or MTB use I use Shimano XT, XTR, Novatec D711/D712, Miche Syntium DX and DT Swiss 350 and 240 hubs. So simply I can supply a hub for every need.

All the hubs we use are straightforward to service, if it is isn't I won't use it. Also I only use reliable hubs. Not keen or lightweight hubs that give the customer constant maintenance issues.


I use Sapim J-bend spokes mostly because they are not overpriced and readily available everywhere not that my wheels break spokes but mechs do seem to go into spokes regularly. With factory wheels you don't get a choice you end up with the most expensive kind of spoke a straight pull aero spoke making replacements awkward to find and a rebuild prohibitively expensive. Another reason to go with handbuilts from The Cycle Clinic.

I have taken to doing some high end wheelsets with straight pull spokes with Miche SWR and carbon Ti rim brake hubs but these hubs are a bit special and offer something unique.

My disc brake wheels mainly use sapim triple butted spokes. This extend spoke life and allow me to use lower spoke count without having to worry about weight limits. For example the Sapim Force and CX-force have a 2.2mm diameter at the elbow. This is 21% more cross sectional area where it matter the most. So with these spokes 24F/24R with 30+mm deep rims and 28F/28R with medium depth rims will be fine for most riders covering the normal weight range.

Disc brake wheels get spokes with a thick elbow so I don't have to bother with weight limits. Beside given the rim does not wear out a weight limit is meaningless. Even a light rider that brakes enough and does enough miles will eventually fatigue the spokes. It may take some time though. 

If in doubt ask. I don't get reports of spoke failures and I would like to keep it that way.

All wheels I build are done on the shop's Park Tool TS 2.2 and to ensure even spoke tension the DT Swiss Tensio is brought out to play and if I am building with Sapim CX-rays then the Sapim spoke tension gauge does not feel left out. Spoke tensions are 1200N DS rear and for the front 1000N. Tension variance should be no more than +/-5%. This ensures long spoke life and wheels that do not go out of true. All wheels leave the shop laterally true to within 0.2mm normally. Sometimes a wheel refuses to behave and 0.3mm of lateral wobble is seen, this is rare though. Anything beyond and I would pick another rim up and start again. The wheel should not ping when first ridden as I stress relieve them in the shop. Over the life of a wheel as I do not threadlock spoke nipples some movement is possible but the wheel should stay within 0.4mm of true or less for it entire life. Radial roundness is a tough one. This relies on the rim being round to start with. most rims are 0.5mm roundness i.e total up down movement is 0.5mm. some will be a bit more other a bit less. if I plotted roundness of rims I would get a bell curve. What I will not do is try to true out radial movement. On modern rims this would require big tension changes and that mean spoke failure is more likely. We don't want that do we. Any rim that is not round gets binned.

I offer this as it hardly gets called on. Any wheel I build will be backed up (against spoke failure) for the life of the rim (for the original owner) or 5 years for rim brake wheels or 10,000 miles or 5 years for disc brake wheels. This means free spokes for the life of the rim brake rim (until it wears out). If your wheel goes out of true for any reason get it back to me and it will be sorted and sent back to you. If a spoke breaks the same applies. If more than one has gone I will rebuild with new spokes I don't mess about with wheels. I offer this as I am not expecting problems, should they happen though you are covered. This is a truely free service (for UK customers). Crash damage is repaired at cost only, ie. no labour but you do pay shipping costs. For foreign customers I still back up my wheels just contact me.

A rim is worn if the rim wear indicators are no longer visible or the wall thickness of the brake track is 1.0mm or under.

Being a former physics teacher I do try to apply maths to what I do. One thing I want to make clear there is no such thing as a climbing wheel. I can prove it, well the spreadsheet I have made can. In order to get any measurable time saving on a climb you need to shed quite a bit of weight of the bike say 2 kg. This is not possible with wheels unless what you have is really heavy so while I quote weights on wheelsets please do not buy on that alone as I can assure a 1700g wheelset climbs just as well as a 1500g wheelset. So in general most of the wheels you find are in the 1450g -1750g range as that is light enough for any purpose. If you are racing and want every last marginal gain then enquire as I do build aero, stiff, light and wide rimmed wheels and that way you have all bases covered.

So whatever your wheel requirements whether it be road disc or rim brake, CX, MTB XC, MTB trial/AM, MTB DH, touring, commuting or leisure, The Cycle Clinic can help. Give us a call, drop in or e-mail. Wheels are what I do.